Blogging the Theoretical

Hill Collins and Gender by Erika Seaver (Final)

September 21, 2011 · No Comments

Gender oppression is the oldest and possibly the most fundamental oppression within history in which other oppressions could/ most often are based on, due to the intermingled system of Intersectionality. Hill Collins describes this idea of Intersectionality as the place in which intersecting oppressions, such as sex, class, race, nation, and gender; meet (138). All of these categories in which women have been placed within have lead to their further oppression by the elite white male society. It is through these intersecting ideas that Collins points out the fact that black women are oppressed in so many different areas due to the interconnectedness of the ideas and expectations around sex, class, race, nation, and gender, which have been constructed through the eyes of white males. Ultimately, perpetuating the system of patriarchal domination and oppression of black females.

Hill Collins first looks at Heterosexism, “the inherent superiority of one form of sexual expression over another and thereby the right to dominate” (Collins 139). Heterosexism is a framework in which black female’s sexualities are looked at and anything deviating from the norm of heterosexual expression as being “normal, natural, and normative” (Collins 139). In expanding further on heterosexual norms there are black female images such as the “hoochie” that are viewed as “unnatural, dirty, sick and sinful” (Collins 139) or “wild, [or having an] out-of-control sexual appetite” (Collins 140). This lens in which we look at Black women surrounding sexuality feeds into the ways in which black women face oppression based on this clearly visible racism through sexuality. The classes in which black women experience oppression will be discussed further to follow when specifically discussing controlling images of women within certain classes. Race is also an intersecting oppression to women and Hill Collins is choosing to tell the stories of specifically black oppressed women, so the ideas and struggles we read about are focused on the basis of race, and the struggle of black women.

In looking further into the oppression of women based on race, gender and class, Patricia Hill Collins’ Black Feminist Thought describes how black women have been portrayed in various lights that confront these very ideas of race, gender, and class oppression. Women, black women more specifically have been oppressed by the white patriarchal society and how this oppression and objectification has led to black women’s experiences and life stories in some way to serve interest or benefit the elite white males. Throughout Black Feminist Thought, Collins discusses the oppression paradigms of race, class and gender to conceptualize domination and resistance. “Gender” comes to the forefront when Collins brings up the ideas of “controlling images”. Examples of controlling images around Black women include; “The Mammy- the maid/ housekeeper (Collins 80), the “Matriarch”- head bread winner of the household (Collins 83), the “Welfare Mother”- mother who spends too much time with her children (Collins 86), the “Jezebel”- the powerful and masculine women” (89), and the “hoochie”- the sluty/ distasteful black women (Collins 90). All of these images are examples of gender exploitation and created in the eyes of white males. In my opinion these gendered images serve to coerce/ force black women into acting a certain way based on the image they have been associated with.

When Hill Collins states: “Intersectional paradigms remind us that oppression cannot be reduced to once fundamental type, and that oppressions work together in producing injustice” (Collins 21), she is looking at the intersectionality between sexuality, race, class, and gender within the specific Black women community to show how these aspects within a black women’s life are what contribute to the oppression in which they received, based on the patriarchal society and expectations in which we live in. With the examples given above and discussed thought out all of Black Feminist Thought, we see that women’s experiences are always going to be gendered, raced, and classed.

It is important to note that as we see through controlling images of black women, that all black women do not share the same experiences and therefore cannot relate to specific situations directly but through what Hill Collins describes as the Matrix of Domination- how intersection oppressions are organized (21), can find common ground/ themes and a new angle to define themselves individually, as a community and within the society. These collective powers of black women allow them to find an outlet of the gendered patriarchal society and allow them [black women] to shape particular standpoints of black women in the United States.

Categories: Erika · Group Two

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